In mid-2017, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page became a convenient target of Donald Trump’s relentless hostility, after anti-Trump texts she’d exchanged were made public. The texts, between Page and former FBI agent Peter Strzok, with whom she was having an extramarital affair, became a years-long fixation for Trump; he repeatedly attacked both Page and Strzok on Twitter, often mockingly referring to them as “lovers.” But after he acted out an orgasm while repeatedly saying her name in front of thousands of his fanatical supporters at a rally this past October, Page began to feel she could no longer sit back and silently weather his attacks.
“His demeaning fake orgasm was really the straw that broke the camel’s back … I had stayed quiet for years hoping it would fade away, but instead it got worse,” she told the Daily Beast. “It had been so hard not to defend myself, to let people who hate me control the narrative. I decided to take my power back.”
Although Page agreed to a closed-door interview with lawmakers about her texts last summer, her interview with the Daily Beast, published last night, is her first since she became a recurring figure in the president’s unhinged tweetstorms. But just because she’s kept quiet doesn’t mean Trump’s belittling comments haven’t gotten under her skin — instead, the attacks are so crushing, she says she has struggled to find the words to describe them.
“It’s like being punched in the gut,” she says. “My heart drops to my stomach when I realize he has tweeted about me again. The president of the United States is calling me names to the entire world. He’s demeaning me and my career.”
Before Trump put a target on her back, Page wasn’t used to this type of attention. Though she worked on both the Hillary Clinton email case and the investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential collusion with Russia, Page told the Beast that “not a person outside of my small legal community” knew who she was throughout the majority of her FBI career. That, however, changed in May 2017, when internal investigations uncovered her texts with Strzok, in which they both made anti-Trump comments and expressed fear at the prospect that he might win the general election. Trump seized upon this as evidence that the Russia investigation was politically motivated, claiming Page and Strzok were part of a “witch hunt” against him, and even going so far as to accuse them of treason. (In May 2018, Page resigned from her post over the texts; four months later, Strzok was fired over the messages, and has since filed a wrongful termination suit against the Department of Justice and FBI.)
Since Trump latched onto her exchanges with Strzok, Page says the scandal “never goes away or stops, even when he’s not publicly attacking me.”
“[W]hen somebody makes eye contact with me on the Metro, I kind of wince, wondering if it’s because they recognize me, or are they just scanning the train like people do? It’s immediately a question of friend or foe?” she says, adding, “I’m not looking for conflict.”
While Page will likely be able to put some of the scandal behind her in the near future — in a forthcoming report from the Justice Department inspector general, Page is expected to be exonerated of the accusation that she exhibited anti-Trump bias in her work — escaping Trump’s attacks will be a much more difficult feat. In the day since the Daily Beast published its interview with Page, Trump has already, predictably, gone after her.